MICHELIN TAKES FIFTH STRAIGHT WIN Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen (Team McLaren Mercedes) dominated the Spanish Grand Prix to end Renault& ...
MICHELIN TAKES FIFTH STRAIGHT WIN
Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) dominated the Spanish Grand Prix to end Renaults four-race winning streak. The Finn led all the way from pole position to beat local favourite and world championship leader Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) by almost half a minute.
The event began in slightly chaotic fashion when Minardi team-mates Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher were left on the grid. The stewards sent out the Safety Car to allow the stranded cars to be removed and the race didnt start in anger until lap three.
Räikkönen was able to pull away at will from Alonso who had outgunned front-row qualifier Mark Webber (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) off the line. The Finn was never seriously troubled all afternoon and afterwards paid fulsome tribute to his tyres. We knew this would be a hard race on rubber, he said, but the Michelins have been fantastic all weekend.
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes added: This is a great result for our team and Michelin is part of that. Kimi has done a fantastic job all weekend. He hasnt put a foot wrong and Id like to thank Michelin for its input. Our Michelin tyres were very good throughout qualifying and the race. We kept telling Kimi to make sure he looked after his equipment, but even so he was able to set a string of really quick laps. Michelin played a major part in this victory.
Cheered to the rafters by his home crowd, Alonso took a comfortable second place to extend his lead to 18 points in the title chase. Alonso dropped behind team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella after the first round of stops, but the Italian had to pit out of sequence on lap 40 to have a new nose section fitted. He fought back to take fifth place, however, and set the races fastest lap right at the end on a set of Michelins that had completed almost 400 kilometres (240 miles) in punishing heat.
Toyota team-mates Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were closely matched throughout the 66 laps. The Italian vaulted ahead of Schumacher after the first refuelling stop and they ran nose to tail until the end to take third and fourth, ahead of Fisichella and Webber (the latter of whom was delayed by a brief off-course excursion). Juan Pablo Montoya (Team McLaren Mercedes) finished seventh on his return from injury, despite an unscheduled pit stop, and David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing) completed Michelins clean sweep of the top eight positions.
Of the other Michelin runners, Nick Heidfeld (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) started at the back, after being penalised for two unscheduled changes, and worked his way up to 10th. Felipe Massa (Sauber-Petronas) pulled off with a broken wheel with three laps to go, but was still classified 11th. A technical problem forced his team-mate Jacques Villeneuve to retire after 51 laps.
Promising newcomer Vitantonio Liuzzi (Red Bull Racing) was an early retirement after spinning into the gravel while running 13th. Michelin took a clean sweep of the top eight positions and remains unbeaten so far this season.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
This was a fascinating event from a technical perspective. When we selected compounds for the Circuit de Catalunya, the weather forecasts suggested that conditions would be cloudy and quite cool but it has been a beautiful, sunny day."
"This placed extra demands on tyres that would have had to cope with significant loads even in ordinary circumstances, but now the chequered flag has dropped we can see that our hard work during the pre-race build-up has paid off. That is a tribute to the whole Michelin team both here and at Clermont-Ferrand.
There were times during the race when we saw a little bit of blistering, but that was to be expected given the hot conditions and the situation stabilised very quickly. At the end of the race, it was gratifying to see Giancarlo Fisichella set fastest lap on a set of tyres that had covered the best part of 400km over two days. That underlined the excellent long-term performance Michelin is able to offer its partners.